It was a performance of pure domination, and one that Hibs have been threatening to produce at home for a few weeks.
A superstar performance from John McGinn that included a sweetly struck goal and efforts from Brian Graham, David Gray and Martin Boyle emphatically sent Hibernian three points clear at the top of the league and in doing so, consigned Queen of the South to a fifth-straight Championship loss at Easter Road on Saturday.
Neil Lennon will be happy with the manner of the victory however, with the Hibees looking far more clinical going forward. Unlike last week at Easter Road against Falkirk, they did not have to wait long for the breakthrough when Brian Graham took advantage of an unfortunate error from Doonhammer Grant Anderson in the seventh minute.
Andrew Shinnie’s free-kick found Darren McGregor, whose snapshot made its way via a couple of deflections to the line, only to meet Anderson. The midfielder sat on the ball but was unable to stop it squirming away underneath him while Graham applied the pressure two yards out and took full advantage at the far post.
Martin Boyle had the first of four chances in the half with 19 minutes played. An attempted clearance from Andy Dowie ricocheted straight into the path of Graham who passed it to Boyle, known as the ‘squirrel’ by his teammates. The diminutive striker was one-on-one with Queen’s keeper Lee Robinson, and looked certain to continue his rich vein of goal scoring form, but Robinson was a match to the placed shot, tipping it acrobatically wide of the far post.
Boyle then hit the post with a chip after a floated McGinn through ball challenged the keeper to come off his line, as well as having a shot from 16 yards parried away moments later. The Dumfries side’s attack was more bark than bite, with hefty tackles flying in but not much in the way of a real attacking threat. They had their own bad luck with the woodwork not long after. McGregor felled Pickard about 20 yards out, and the free-kick from the far side smashed the near post as Ofir Marciano stood motionless.
And then came the second. David Gray won a corner by chasing a nothing ball to the by-line and knocking it off Chris Higgins. The additional work-ethic had the perfect reward. McGinn picked up the ball on the far side of the box from the corner, shook off Dykes and hit a powerful shot through a crowd of players. Higgins was the unlucky player to get the final touch but Hibs were not likely to care.
A fox made a brief guest appearance at Easter Road in the second half, running the length of the pitch before escaping by the near corner. It was an apt metaphor for the way Jim Thomson’s side were losing their grip on the chance of any points. Shortly after McGinn swung the ball in towards the near post, Gray got the important touch to guide it into the Queen of the South net early in the second period for Hibernian’s third.
At the very least the visitors should have had one soon after.
A slip from Paul Hanlon set Lyndon Dykes away on goal, but despite being one-on-one with Marciano, McGregor’s pressure was too much and a few heavy touches later the ball was past the by-line and out of play. Boyle finally got his first and Hibernian’s fourth just after the hour mark, picking it up outside the box on the right-hand side, before driving past a lazy Queens tackle and thumping it with such power past Robinson and into the net that the frustration from earlier missed chances must have been carried with the shot.
Fyvie was replaced by Dylan McGeouch following a knock, while John McGinn followed suit on the 67th minute to a similar standing ovation, replaced by Jason Cummings. The Scotland international looked tired despite his excellent performance though, and the possibility of an eight-week layoff due to inevitable surgery to fix an ongoing ankle problem will worry Lennon going forward to the Dundee United fixture on Friday.
The only complaint for Lennon may well be that the final score was not more than four, but he will have to be content with that for now as Hibs wrapped up a comfortable 4-0 win over Queen of the South.
Image courtesy of Daniel.